My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Teachers' Unions: Greatest Impediment To Good Public Education

Here's a story you've probably only heard a tiny little piece of:

An impasse has been declared in contract talks between the Jefferson County Schools and the Jefferson County Teachers Association. . .

The main dispute, according to a school district release, centers around probationary teachers, who are those in their first three years of employment.

The district does not want to be required to renew annual contracts of probationary teachers who are not meeting expectations without going through a grievance process.

The teachers union wants to keep current contract language that gives probationary teachers job protection beyond what is provided by state law.

That's the Denver Post coverage of the story. How did the Rocky handle this story?

Jefferson County Public Schools and the teachers union declared impasse Friday in contract negotiations.

At issue is a provision that gives appeal rights to non-tenured teachers who are dismissed.

Pretty light-weight coverage. Nothing hard-hitting, nothing that suggests anybody is being unreasonable, though the Post story did include that line about "beyond what is provided by state law." If all you knew about the story was what was in the newspapers, you might assume that both sides were being reasonable, and the union was merely doing it's job protecting its teachers.

But you would be wrong.

Not only does state law NOT require those sort of protections for probationary teachers, not a single school district in the state provides such protections for probationary teachers. In fact, principals-in-training are advised to make sure their paperwork is in order prior to the end of the third year so that they can dispose of bad young teachers while they can . . .

and before they can do too much damage to your children.

EXCEPT if you intend to be an administrator in Jefferson County; in that case, good luck. Hire well. And learn to train, retrain, and be patient.

Put that in the context of the private sector. Imagine being the manager at a manufacturing plant, and having a poor employee. Imagine , which is not too big a stretch, having to jump through several hoops to terminate said bad employee--perhaps you need a history of three bad evaluations, a record of an "intervention" or "remediation", followed by another poor evaluation, etc. . . While I imagine such a process silly in the private sector, it is not beyond imagining. Tedious, but not unrealistic. And, in the end, said employee would likely be terminated.

Such is not the case in the public schools. All the previous requirements must be met to terminate a teacher, but in most school districts throughout the state, to fire a teacher after they have reached the fourth year of their career usually involves a lengthy greivance process through the union, followed by an appeal or two, followed by . . . One principal told me that the process can take up to four years to complete, and is almost never, in the long run, worth the trouble.

What Jefferson County teachers have is a version of the same protections for ALL teachers, whether a proven veteran or a clueless rookie. And, very often, rather than being fired, the teacher would merely be moved on to another location.

The old argument is that the termination process for teachers SHOULD be difficult, because you don't want to be getting into a situation where the whim of a principal could be allowed to dictate the career of an altruistic young teacher.

Does this sound right to any of you out in the private sector? Yeah, I didn't think so.

BUT . . . .I SAY BUT . .

that's not the whole story.

The protection of probationary teachers IS, indeed, the sticking point in contract negotiations. But, somehow, both papers missed a pretty important factoid.

The Jefferson County School District has offered the teachers an across-the-board cost of living increase of 4% to the teachers, as well as alterations to the pay scale and benefits totaling about 2%, for a total compensation increase of 6% to the teachers.

Get that? The district has offered teachers a 6% pay increase, and the union is saying "NO" because the district wants to conform to the practice of every other school district in the state, and the union does not want to do that.

How many of you know a teacher? Ask them how they feel about their union turning down a 6% pay raise over probationary teachers.

Then tell them what your pay raise was last year. Or, better yet, what it would have been if you had been a very poor performer at your job.

And let me make one thing very clear: THIS IS NOT THE TEACHERS DOING THIS!! I am a teacher, and I only found out about this folly a couple days ago.

This is the teachers' union at work here. Let me draw the difference:

Teachers are smart, highly trained, hard working, dedicated and altruistic servants of the public good. Without any doubt in my mind, the vast majority of teachers I have worked with fit this description. I would defy you to find better people in any other walk of life, with the possible exception of the clergy. And, yes, teachers do get good benefits, including great vacation time; and, occassionally, one of them oversteps their purview and spews odd Lefty rubbish: this does not diminish any of the other characteristics I listed above in the vast majority of cases.

Teachers' UNIONS, on the other hand, are self-important, self-interested, protectors of THEIR OWN interests who freely spend teachers' money on hard-left political causes, many of which have precious little to do with education.

Which is why I believe teachers' unions are one of the greatest impediments to good education in all of society. Whether it is because of their reflexive resistance to innovation and improvement, out-an-out goofiness like this story, or just because the bad public relations they generate make one-third of the population mistrust public schools and teachers, teachers' unions have done more to set back the cause they profess to protect than any single entity anywhere.

Just ask yourself: what does this negotiation have to do with improving student learning?

And then ask your teacher friend the same question.

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